U.S., Indian Minister Meet; Defense Deals Pending
WASHINGTON – U.S. and Indian defense chiefs met Sept. 28 amid efforts by Washington to step up arms sales to New Delhi and ease restrictions on hi-tech weaponry.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates hosted India Defense minister A.K. Antony for talks as both countries touted a growing strategic alliance and expanding military ties, including a pending multi-billion-dollar deal for American C-17 cargo planes.
U.S. and Indian officials have been negotiating an agreement that would see New Delhi buy at least 10 C-17 planes, manufactured by Boeing.
The deal, which is in its final stages and worth an estimated two to five billion dollars, could be signed in November when U.S. President Barack Obama visits India, officials said.
Before the Sept. 28 meeting, Gates had said he wanted to see India given more access to U.S. military technology as part of a wider effort by the administration to loosen export controls for friendly countries.
“India certainly is high on our list in terms of a country that … I would like to see those restrictions eased,” he told a news conference last week.
Indian officials have asked Washington to lift restrictions which they say have hampered potential arms sales.
Gates also said last week that he expected to talk about India’s competition for a new fighter jet.
Two US combat aircraft, the F-16 and the F-18, are competing against four other planes, the Saab Gripen, Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Mikoyan MiG-35.
In their meeting, Gates and Antony discussed “the progressively increasing trade in military-technical equipment, service to service exchanges, joint military exercises and collaboration in defense technologies” between the two countries, the Indian embassy in Washington said in a statement.
After decades of mutual unease during the Cold War, India’s relations with the United States have steadily improved and defense ties have expanded since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including annual joint military exercises.
Both countries share a concern over China’s growing military power and reach, particularly in the Indian Ocean, and view Islamist extremists as posing a common threat.
Defense-related trade between the two nations is on the rise after a deal in July between the two countries opened the way for the sale of sophisticated U.S. weaponry to India.